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Malaysia’s Health Ministry Warns of COVID-19 Surge Amid Holiday Season

Malaysia’s Health Ministry has issued a warning regarding a potential increase in COVID-19 cases amid the holiday season and school reopenings. 

Authorities are urging individuals experiencing symptoms to wear face masks to protect their families, friends, and the broader community.

Rising Cases and High-Risk Groups

Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan, the country’s health director-general, reported a 3% increase in COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week. He also noted a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to public health facilities during the same period.

Dr Radzi highlighted that most patients admitted to hospitals belonged to the high-risk group, including those with comorbidities and the elderly. 

These groups are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 symptoms and complications, necessitating extra caution and care.

School Reopenings and Preventive Measures

As schools reopen, the health ministry is urging students, teachers, and staff to practice preventive measures, such as using hand sanitisers and wearing face masks. 

These precautions are especially important for those experiencing symptoms or in enclosed or crowded places, where the risk of transmission is higher.

Dr Radzi emphasised that Malaysia’s COVID-19 situation is under control, with health services and hospital capacity remaining unaffected. However, he cautioned against complacency, stressing the importance of continued vigilance in following safety guidelines.

Possible Rise in COVID-19 Cases Over Next Two Weeks

Public health experts in Malaysia, including Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar and Dr Rosnah Sutan, are predicting an increase in COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks due to the festive season, school holidays, and increased social interactions. 

They have warned that unreported mild COVID-19 cases could contribute to the spread of the virus if preventive measures are not adequately practised.

Dr Rosnah stressed the importance of maintaining routine preventive measures during social gatherings to limit transmission. She also noted that underreporting of mild cases could lead to an extended period of increasing COVID-19 cases, further straining the healthcare system.

Mask Usage and the Arcturus Variant

Dr Zainal advocated for the use of face masks, suggesting that the government make mask-wearing mandatory for schools. He explained that masking remains an effective way to curb the spread of the new Arcturus variant, a subvariant of the Omicron virus that spreads more efficiently than some other strains.

Since September 2022, wearing face masks on school premises has been encouraged but not required. Currently, masks are only mandatory on public transport, in healthcare facilities, and for those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Decline in Testing and Future Concerns

Recent data from the health ministry showed a decline in COVID-19 testing between April 13 and April 21. Dr Zainal expressed concern that people are beginning to let their guard down, resulting in a decreased emphasis on testing and surveillance. He urged the Ministry of Health to address this issue to ensure accurate statistics and preparedness for potential surges in cases.

In conclusion, the Malaysian Health Ministry has cautioned against a potential increase in COVID-19 cases amid the holiday season and school reopenings. The public is urged to remain vigilant, adhere to preventive measures, and prioritise testing and reporting to keep the situation under control.

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